SKIP KEVIN IOLE
Dana White’s hand puppet has never met an argument from his master that he wouldn’t regurgitate and repeat. You can find more independence of spirit in an S&M dungeon. His latest is to call Rashad Evans a sniveling wimp and whiner—strong words from such a bottom. His columns might be useful if Dana were shy about his opinions and the UFC needed a press secretary to express the administration’s positions. But Master White, hallowed be his name, has never met a media outlet—be they blogs, v-blogs, cable sports shows, men’s magazines, or books—he wasn’t willing to inject his inner invectives into. Iole’s only function, therefore, is to serve as an echo chamber. It is an embarrassment that Yahoo keeps him on staff and pretends he is an independent journalist and not a corporate shill.
KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE
If a freakishly talented young up-and-comer in your weight class wants to be your teammate and training partner, be wary of overtures of friendship. Young wolves are submissive to the pack leader up until the point they are ready to challenge the old wolf for his job. If you wanted a more touchy-feely workplace environment, you should have tried charitable work instead of cage fighting… Actually, that business is cut throat as well. In fact, every industry is. So don’t expect too much fan pity, because we’ve all had a colleague stab us in the back.
DO NOT SIGN NON-AGGRESSION PACTS
Stalin tried that with Hitler, and it didn’t work out so well. As the Republicans’ sainted Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” Then again Reagan nearly gave away all of America’s nuclear weapons at Rejkjavik, so skip the “trust” part and stick to “verify.” If you are engaged in a bloody activity where the winner takes if not all than at least most of the spoils of war, assume the bonds of human kindness will be weak. Currently, the sport of MMA is a single monopoly with five (plus three) championship belts. That’s not a lot of wiggle room for you to get yours and me to get mine.
THERE’S NO “I” IN “TEAM,” BUT THERE IS A “ME”
As Dana White has repeatedly said, “MMA is not a team sport.” This is a point Ben Fowlkes brings up, and it’s something he’d know about since he started with the IFL. While MMA fighters perform alone, they need teammates and sparring partners to improve their game. With only one major league and six or so top-flight gyms, teammates will eventually have to face each other. The choice is to find an obscure gym and pack it with non-competitors (see: Brock Lesnar) or give up the one-for-all-all-for-one fantasy. MMA ain’t The Three Musketeers anymore; it’s Highlander.
As the Evans vs. Jones family feud broke out after UFC 128, the very pained Greg Jackson told Ariel Helwani he “loves Rashad like a brother” and said he plans to stay “neutral”—as if he were Switzerland hiding Nazi gold. Martial arts studios are not families, but they do have 1,500 years of hard-earned etiquette. And one of the rules is: when a conflict between students arises, the senior is given preference, not the better prospect. That is the price of loyalty.
- When Matt Serra faced GSP for their rematch (UFC 83), their mutual BJJ coach, John Danaher, chose to train Serra, despite having more fond feelings for GSP, because Serra was Renzo Gracie Academy’s senior student.
- As Fowlkes reported in his excellent article: when Evan Dunham and Tyson Griffon, both Xtreme Couture teammates, faced each other, Dunham graciously found another gym because Griffon was senior.
- Greg Jackson should have asked Jones to leave and Evans to stay and aggressively agreed to train, coach, and corner Rashad for the match. That he didn’t says a great deal more about where his heart lies than any protestations of brotherly love.
(Matthew Polly is the author of American Shaolin. He heartily loves his brothers at fightlinker.com, unless a championship belt is on the line – or a bottle of Jack Daniel’s – in which case he will totally betray them.)